Ray Rice Indicted for Domestic Violence Aggravated Assault

A New Jersey grand jury has inducted Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, for aggravated assault as an act of domestic violence.  On February 15, Rice and his fiancee, Janay Palmer, were seen hitting each other outside a casino.  The incident was caught on video.  Immediately following the incident, both Rice and Palmer were charged with simple assault as acts of domestic violence.  The prosecution turned Rice’s case over to a grand jury.  The grand jury indicted Rice on the elevated charge of aggravated assault.  If convicted, Rice faces three to five years in prison.

Based on this information, the equivalent charges in Colorado would be third degree assault, which is a class one misdemeanor, and second degree assault, which is a class four felony.  It is not clear the reason the prosecution decided to turn Rice’s case over to the grand jury, but TMZ released some additional video that showed Rice dragging Palmer out of an elevator.  She appeared to be unconscious.  Following the indictment, it does not appear as though the simple assault charge against Palmer has been dismissed … yet.

Whenever both people involved in a domestic violence incident get charged, it creates complication for the prosecution.  The reason it creates issues for the prosecution are two-fold:  1.  Both parties have a right to remain silent, which means neither person can be forced to testify; and 2.  Both parties may assert self defense.  Unless there are independent witnesses to the assault, without Palmer testifying against Rice, it would be difficult for Rice to be convicted and vice versa.  Self defense is an affirmative defense in Colorado.  For the prosecution to convict Rice, they would have to prove, not only that he committed the crime of aggravated assault, but also disprove that he was acting in self defense.  It seems that the prosecution believes that Palmer was also hitting Rice, so disproving self defense could be difficult.  Generally, when both people are arrested, the prosecution has to decide which person they believe was the initial aggressor.  Once this is determined, the prosecution will pursue the case against the initial aggressor and dismiss the case against the other person.  If the prosecution cannot determine who initiated the fight, then the prosecution should dismiss both cases because they cannot meet their burden of proof, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.